And God Created Penis Pills: The Story of Viagra

Viagra (sildenafil citrate) began life as a Pfizer trial for high blood pressure and chest pain. It showed no promise and was one financial quarter away from the garbage bin when a trial debrief of some Welsh miners revealed an odd side effect: more boners. After scratching together enough money for an impotence study, the drug began its legendary ascent (ahem). Approved by the FDA in 1998 it was an instant sensation, to a degree that Pfizer never remotely considered. It would go on to make $32.6B during its 20-year exclusive license. Bloomberg talks to some corporate and industry insiders about the transforming power of a little blue pill.

The Little Blue Pill: An Oral History of Viagra, 12.11.17

“Raw Data”: The New Standard in Virtual-Reality Gaming

Virtual Reality has been the apple in the eye of tech enthusiasts for decades, but it’s only in the last few years that consumers have had access to VR headsets that begin to deliver on the immense promise. The first-gen Rift and Hive headsets (among others) will likely be looked back on the way we look at the first iPhone or iPod now. A starting point. USC’s Mixed Reality Lab has become the nation’s hotbed of VR innovation. Palmer Luckey (founder of Oculus) got his start there. And now comes Survios, a startup founded by three graduates of the Lab. Survios is making waves with Raw Data, an immersive zombie apocalypse game that many are calling the new standard in VR gameplay. Movement, graphics, and actions are synced better than ever before, and people are noticing. In September it became the first VR game to gross $1M in a month. Last week it won Game of the Year at the AMD VR Game awards. And it only finished its production releases this week. Rolling Stone catches the wave.

‘Raw Data’: An Oral History, 10.18.17

Lumascape: Making Order Out of Chaos

Terence Kawaja introduced Lumascape, a one-page graphical representation of the online advertising industry, in 2010. At that time things were nutso. Google’s AdWords was taking over the world, and the industry was growing, evolving, and consolidating all at the same time. His industry landscape became a sensation in that it helped provide definition to the players and their roles. Plus, he used their logos, which made everyone happy. Digiday takes a look back at one of the most famous PowerPoint slides of all time.

‘I just wanted to organize this mess’: An oral history of the Lumascape, 9.12.17

Menswear Was Late to the Blogging Party, But It’s Made Quite the Entrance

Women’s fashion made great use of the internet for the early days for obvious reasons–pictures and video of high fashion were perfect of the internet, and blogging/message boards easily found an eager audience. Menswear, however, was neglected in the boom years. For many connoisseurs that changed when added a men’s section in 2008. Since then, it’s been gangbusters. Early blogs like and exploded in popularity and were soon followed by hundreds of imitators. Brands took notice and launched their own male-oriented content streams and now business is booming. traces the meteoric rise.

Reblog This: The Oral History of Menswear Blogging, 12.13.11

Tales From the Borderlands

Telltale Games is a beloved game development studio known for story-driven splatfests. They’re best known for The Walking Dead gaming series and Tales From the Borderlands was viewed as a bit of a odd departure into comedic fare. However, the five-part series proved to be a great success in the mid-2010’s and brought a new brand of fan to the studio. Campo Santo does a fascinating deep dive into the creative development process for the series, and Telltale’s employees, to their credit, are refreshingly honest. It’s honestly an interesting view into a successful (and stressed) creative team, regardless of whether you care about the video game product that came out the other side.

Tales from the Borderlands: The Oral History, 8.8.17

Ms. Magazine Changes American Media Forever

In 1971 American media was still dominated by white males, even properties marketed to women. Female journalists were pigeonholed into writing about food, fashion, and marriage. That changed when Gloria Steinhem and a collection of New York feminist journalists founded Ms. magazine. They were concerned whether there was a market for a glossy monthly magazine–the first issue sold out in eight days. Proposed articles showed that they were finally writing the stories they wanted to write: “A Secretary is an Office Wife,” “Someone Should Have Liberated Pat Nixon,” and “The Politics of Sex.” The magazine would help launch an entire media market, but its own fortunes waned as the century drew to a close, worn down by infighting, cultural change, and competition. Today, it is still published as a quarterly, and has a solid online presence. Its articles can be found in women’s studies syllabi across the country. New York Magazine, which helped with the initial launch of Ms. takes a multi-faceted look back at an American cultural institution.

How Do You Spell Ms., 10.30.11

Columbia House: The CD Distribution Titan

For us 90’s kids, Columbia House (and their rival, BMG) were ubiquitous and important purveyors of CDs. Their infamous “8 CDs for a Penny” promotion was touted everywhere and many (including me) were hooked. It had a very tangible effect on the music business: some estimates say 15% of CDs sold in the 1990s were from mail order companies. How did this business model work? When you signed up, you turned on the firehouse–they would keep sending you full-price items on a monthly basis until you cancelled. This actually worked. The A.V. Club talked about working at Columbia House with four now-famous individuals who worked there as 20-somethings in the 90s, including journalist Sasha Frere-Jones and online content god Piotr Orlov.

Four Columbia House insiders explain the shady math behind “8 CDs for a penny”, 6.10.15

Header Bidding: Online Advertising Evens the Playing Field Thru Pure Capitalism

For many years online advertising has been relatively static, with direct buys getting first dibs on impressions, followed by a programmatic guess at the most valuable ad exchange, often dominated by Google’s Doubleclick leviathan. In the summer of 2015 new technology began spreading called header bidding (or advance bidding, or pre-bidding) that removes the pre-conditions and guesswork of online advertising by requesting real-time bids for impressions, thus creating a truly open marketplace. This has increased margins for publishers and reduced Google’s dominance in the marketplace, making everybody (except Google) happy. Digiday recaps the revolution.

‘An ad tech urban legend’: An oral history of how header bidding became digital advertising’s hottest buzzword, 6.16.17

TED Talks: Mystic Techies Start Own Self-Help Movement

TED Talks, a boon to cheap HR departments everywhere, started off as an insular West Coast conference for wealthy tech-sector employees. Their talks, which focus on Technology, Education, and Design (TED), sometimes verged into proselytizing, but entertaining proselytizing. The conference honchos decided to put the videos online, hoping for 10,000 total views. The talks, which could not be longer than 18 minutes, proved to be catnip for the internet, gaining 10,000 views the first day and rising exponentially. Three weeks later the CEO decided TED was now a media platform, and the Silicon Valley Self-Help Movement was born. Wired takes a quick look back at the transformation.

The Oral History of TED, a Club for the Rich That Became a Global Phenomenon, 4.20.17

Xbox’s “Halo” Crosses Over To Pop Culture Fame

Few video games make the jump to pop-culture fame, but Halo is definitely one of them (when Liz Lemon references you, you know you made it). For many years Halo was THE sci-fi shooter and the star of the show was Master Chief, a grunt in power armor who the player often controlled on murderous rampages through enemy ranks. The player’s trusty AI, Cortana, has been named one of the best female and supporting characters in video game history. And all of this video game history started as a side-project to Bungie’s Myst. Waypoint pulls out all the stops for a glorious three-part oral history of the Halo phenomenon.

The Complete, Untold History of Halo, 5.30.17

L.A.’s Nobu Becomes a Global Sensation

Nobu made its name by serving distinctive seafood with stylish presentation. The original restaurant, called Matsuhisa, was in strip mall. That was also the last strip mall location, as the global sensation now operates entire hotels in addition to the namesake restaurants, known for attracting the glitterati like partner Robert De Niro. Founder Nobu Matsuhisa says his philosophy is that “food is like fashion,” and he is forever trying to synthesize local traditions with his iconic sushi recipes in stylish and memorable ways.

Nobu’s Matsuhisa Turns 30: An Oral History of the Sushi Restaurant Where Tom Cruise Couldn’t Get In, 6.2.17

Allen Iverson: Questions and Answers

There are millions of 5’11” guys who think they can play in the NBA. There is one Allen Iverson, a “little” man who had an iconic career first with the Georgetown Hoyas, then with the Philadelphia 76ers. Known for playing with a street attitude, he backed it up by playing as hard as anyone on the court, despite nearly always being the smallest player. Iverson made news off the court as well, including with his groundbreaking 10-year, $60M Reebok shoe contract, the largest such guarantee to that point. Nice Kicks goes all out in an 11-chapter oral history that recaps Iverson’s career and successful partnership with Reebok.

The Rise Of Allen Iverson And Reebok Basketball // An Oral History, 6.7.17

Chris Rock’s Lil Penny: 90’s Advertising Titan

Penny Hardaway’s career was cut drastically short by knee problems, but for a short run in the mid-90’s he was huge, starring with Shaq on some good Orlando Magic teams, playing on the Dream Team, and making some all-NBA teams. Nike capitalized on his notoriety with the Air Pennys and a corresponding ad campaign starring a sassy puppet alter-ego, Lil Penny. Chris Rock got the gig to voice the puppet and ran with it, bringing attitude and humor in improvised lines that made the campaign one of the most successful ever for Nike. Complex looks back at the 90’s classic.

The Oral History of Lil Penny, 10.28.16


Atlanta’s MJQ: Underground Heaven

The MJQ nightclub was founded in 1994 by George Chang, a 6’4″ Swedish-Chinese party monster. He quickly cultivated hip cache with an eclectic mix of music, including lounge music, dub, jungle, acid jazz, retro-soul and trip-hop. Three years later he upgraded to a larger venue and became a cornerstone of Atlanta nightlife that is still going strong today. Creative Loafing provides an expansive two-part oral history of the club, providing fascinating anecdotes how the club actively evolved with the times in order to stay in business.

Late-night magic at MJQ: An oral history, Part I, 6.16.11

Late-night magic at MJQ: An oral history, Part II, 6.23.11



Funny or Die: Sketch Comedy for the Masses

Funny or Die started as a small operation built on the name recognition of Will Ferrell. When the site launched with “The Landlord” as one of its debut videos, its success was assured (it now has over 91M views). The site has had its ups and downs, but a steady diet of celeb-fronted videos has kept the site visible, including Paris Hilton’s memorable “campaign ad” response to a bitchy John McCain commercial. It’s no-frills, low-budget aesthetic has nurtured comedic talents like Billy Eichner and Derek Waters (of Drunk History fame). Wired takes a look back at the site’s first 10 years.

Funny or Die at 10: An Oral History, 4.2.17

Austin Helps Invent the Breakfast Taco

Austin, Texas has been home to a vibrant Mexican community for over 100 years. Popular Mexican restaurants that still exist today started being established in the 40s and 50s, but it is the breakfast taco of the 80s that has seen the widest influence, now being sold by national fast food chains. Called “a mini home-cooked meal in a tortilla,” by one restaurateur, the phenomenon remains a cherished tradition in Austin today. Texas Monthly provides the history in an excerpt from Austin Breakfast Tacos.

The Most Important Taco of the Day, 7.30.13

Ms. Pac Man Becomes the Most Popular Arcade Game of All Time

It was a pattern that would repeat itself throughout the computer age, but the guys behind Ms. Pac Man were among the first: They were too financially successful to finish their degrees at M.I.T., dropping out to work full time. They started with enhancement packages that arcade owners could be to make their games more difficult, first with Missile Command, and then with Asteroids. They started to pull in serious cash and incorporated as General Computer Corporation in Massachusetts. They made their big move with an improved version of video game phenomenon Pac Man, signing an agreement with Midway to market their “mod” as a true sequel, another groundbreaking moment that would be repeated many times in software development. The development of Ms. Pac Man incorporated proto-game theory and the result, a more varied and stimulating experience than its predecessor, changed the course of game development forever.

The MIT Dropouts Who Created Ms. Pac-Man: A 35th-Anniversary Oral History, 2.3.17

The Punk Rock Aesthetic of Early Cyberfeminism

Motherboard recounts the activities of a group of early cyberfeminists from Australia in the early 1990s as they elbowed their way into the boy’s club of the early internet. They did ask not permission, they were not demure, and aesthetically there is a correlation to be drawn with the riot grrrl movement in punk rock. Headstrong, intelligent women marching triumphantly into a male space and righteously planting their flag. Although cyberfeminism as a distinct movement faded before the turn of the century, it was an important early force that continues to evolve throughout electronic media. Motherboard‘s piece includes some examples of caustic visual art produced by the group.

An Oral History of the First Cyberfeminists, 12.11.14

The Turbulent History of the Sports Blog AOL FanHouse

AOL FanHouse was a well-funded sports blog with a stable of talented writers and editors, but its peak in the late 2000’s was brief because of the notorious dysfunction of AOL. The site launched in time for football season in 2006 as the former team-blog-oriented format transitioned to a single global blog format. Despite the awful name the site was an immediate success and within a couple years was a top-5 sports site in terms of traffic. Behind the scenes, however, the rot had begun to take hold. Along with setting ambitious traffic goals AOL management made the mistake of getting involved with content, resulting in “Fantasy Sports Girls,” a hilariously misguided attempt to draw male viewers via boobs. The in-house editorial staff rioted en masse, and a talent exodus that had already started grew into a flood. AOL’s usual mix of staff shakeups and rebrandings had the usual end result: The site was sold for scraps in early 2011 and disappeared shortly after. The Comeback provides an excellent seven-part oral history of the quick rise and fall of one of the first national-scope sports blogs.

The Oral History of AOL FanHouse, 2.29.16